Searching for the Dutch-Paris Escape Line
In 1947 one of the leaders of Dutch-Paris wrote to John Weidner because he was worried about one of their old comrades in the resistance.
The man in question was a Dutch religious (born 1901) living at his Order’s house in the heart of Paris. We’ll call him Brother Rufus. During the war he made several trips to the notorious internment camp at Drancy, outside of Paris, where the French imprisoned Jews in deplorable conditions before deporting them to their fate in Germany.
The guards undoubtedly thought that the good brother was bringing spiritual comfort to the unfortunates inside. And he may have been, but he was also using his robes to hide nationality documents of dubious origins that John Weidner had brought from Switzerland at the request of the Dutch businessman who was the representative of the Dutch Red Cross in Paris. Those documents were enough to get someone out of Drancy. Once out of the camp that someone had a good chance of surviving the war with the help of Weidner and his colleagues.
Brother Rufus also offered shelter to evading Allied airmen and made regular trips to a village outside of Paris to get food for them from a Dutch farmer willing to sell it at cost (as opposed to the much higher black market rate).
Unfortunately for a lot of people, the German police services found out about the airmen hiding at the monastery and raided it at the end of February 1944. They arrested and deported Brother Rufus, the concierge, and their 76 year-old father superior. It’s not clear whether the old man knew what his younger brothers were doing, but, needless to say, he did not survive the appalling conditions in the concentration camps.
Brother Rufus did live to return to Paris. Once there, however, the new father superior held him responsible for his predecessor’s death. Brother Rufus was sent to an isolated monastery in the Netherlands as punishment. He may have found it some comfort that his comrades proposed him for the Dutch Resistance medal [zilver erkentelijkheidsmedaille].